"Green" Approach by Retail Graphics Manufacturer Wins Sustainability Award

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Vomela Specialty Co., a national manufacturer of retail signage, recently won an Outstanding Merit Award from the Association for Retail Environments for its sustainable signage in a new concept store called Eco Shoppe. Eco-friendly products have been available for many years to small-format and offset printing companies, and now, larger-format printing companies also have a wider choice of substrates that are sustainable. Vomela's eco-friendly signage also helped Eco Shoppe earn points toward a "LEED" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Vomela Specialty Co. (http://www.vomela.com/), a national manufacturer of retail signage, recently won an Outstanding Merit Award from the Association for Retail Environments for its sustainable signage in a new concept store called Eco Shoppe, in Austin, Texas.

Small-format "green" printing has been around for many years, with applications for stationery, envelopes, copy paper, packaging and annual reports. Now, sustainable products are taking shape in the large-format printing arena also, in the form of eco-friendly solid substrates used for printing large retail displays and signage. Such materials are capturing the attention of retailers, design firms and large-format printing companies.

Eco-friendly substrates are also on the minds of associations that promote sustainability. For example, in March, 2010, Vomela Specialty Co. (http://www.vomela.com/), a national manufacturer of retail signage from St. Paul, Minnesota, won an Outstanding Merit Award from the Association for Retail Environments for its sustainable signage in a new concept store called Eco Shoppe, in Austin, Texas.

Eco Shoppe, geared toward "green living", is a new concept from well-known retailer Vitamin Shoppe. It opened in mid 2009. The store was the winner of broader category, The Sustainability: Tenant Improvement award - given by the Association.

Sustainable, printable signage and graphics materials are expanding in terms of the types and scope of products available. Many substrates need to be thick to be properly displayed - as thick as one-half inch, and until recently, thicker materials have not been available in an eco-friendly product that is an alternative to less-friendly PVC/plastic display boards. However, that is changing, and the pace is quickening.

According to Vomela Specialty's supply chain manager, Sherree Svoboda, "More and more of our suppliers are promoting eco-friendly materials and the range of products is expanding more rapidly all the time. We're also seeing more inquiries and demand from customers, especially retailers."

Two printable substrates helped Vomela win the Merit Award. The first is a rigid board called Mondi Extreme, which is a durable, Kraft-based composite made from 92% recycled materials. It's fully recyclable (re-pulpable) and biodegradable, and contains no waxes or polyethylene. The second is Duraprene, an industrial, eco-friendly wallcovering base made of fused and pressurized cellulose fibers from renewable resource trees and paper mill by-products, then fiber bonded with natural latex.

Vomela is expanding its offering of printable, eco-type substrates to include corrugates, cellular board, paper-faced foamboard and other products. Recycled content ranges from 16% to 92% and most products are recyclable and biodegradable, but not all are.

The cost of eco-based products is certainly a consideration. Green products for large-format printing do tend to carry a higher price tag than traditional alternatives: they can cost 15% to 30% more. Some customers are fine with that, especially if they are looking for the product to win them points in a green-certification application. But others stop in their tracks at a higher cost.

Materials suppliers are waking up to the fact that green products can be good for business. The eco movement is also being fostered by third parties such as the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, or SGIA, an association for specialty printers and suppliers which offers its members a sustainability action plan guide.

On a broader scale that goes beyond printing to include the architectural community, the certification called "LEED" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is becoming the standard for green planners when it comes to designing and building new structures, from homes and stores to schools and government buildings. LEED status can even be obtained when renovating an existing building.

In the case of Vomela'a Merit Award, the LEED program was factor in winning recognition since one of Eco Shoppe's goals was to become officially certified as a LEED building, and Vomela's eco-friendly printed signage helped the Shoppe to earn LEED points.

Just as LEED certification is driving a collaborative demand-and-supply effect from end-user clients and architects, the large-format printing industry is, albeit slowly, experiencing its own shift from less eco-friendly products to ones that are more sustainable, as suppliers, associations and specialty printers get on the green bandwagon.

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B2B Inc.
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